Mad Honey – Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Published By: Hodder and Stoughton
Pages: 464
Released On: 15/11/2022

Olivia fled her abusive marriage to return to her hometown and take over the family beekeeping business when her son Asher was six. Now, impossibly, her baby is six feet tall and in his last year of high school, a kind, good-looking, popular ice hockey star with a tiny sprite of a new girlfriend.

Lily also knows what it feels like to start over – when she and her mother relocated to New Hampshire it was all about a fresh start. She and Asher couldn’t help falling for each other, and Lily feels happy for the first time. But can she trust him completely?

Then Olivia gets a phone call – Lily is dead, and Asher is arrested on a charge of murder. As the case against him unfolds, she realises he has hidden more than he’s shared with her. And Olivia knows firsthand that the secrets we keep reflect the past we want to leave behind ­­- and that we rarely know the people we love well as we think we do.


Thanks to NetGalley and Hodder and Stoughton for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

**I always try my best to avoid full blown spoilers in a review, but for me to review this book in the manner I feel it deserves, I need to speak honestly. So whilst I have tried not to spoil big moments or big reveals or plot points (only touching on what’s mentioned in the synopsis), I will still put a spoiler warning here in case my enthusiasm reveals something you’d rather not know in advance.**

***Spoiler Warning (just in case you didn’t read all of the above)***

I thought this was going to be “just” a story about beekeeping and a family’s relationships and the secrets they keep. But I should know by now that there’s nothing “just” about a Jodi Picoult book.

I own 23 of her novels, and have read 24 of them, so I’ve nearly got the whole collection. I admit I haven’t read any of Jennifer Finney Boylan’s work, but given how exceptional this book is, I’ve noted down all her previous books to add to my book wish list. At first I was a little wary as to whether a co-authored book would work, whether it would dilute Jodi’s voice, which I have come to adore. But if anything I think it is the addition of Jennifer’s work that rockets this book to the top of the list. Together they bring their own little nuances, their own beauty, and together they have created an unbeatable tale of love and family.

Having done a bit of googling on Jennifer, as she is a new author to me, it is clear there is so much of her in this story. You can see her heart and soul that’s been laid bare in this story and it’s beautiful.

I actually sent Jodi and Jennifer a message on Twitter asking how they went about co-authoring the book (this was before I saw the explanation in the acknowledgements section). They told me that they each took one narrator (of Olivia and Lily), and then edited each other’s to ensure the whole book felt as one. I won’t say who wrote each chapter, but I guessed early on and I’m a bit smug to say I was right. But it is true that the whole storytelling is seamless and if you hadn’t already been told, you would just assume it’s been written by one person.

I have never been in a court room or involved in a court case I am glad to say, but the description of the daily ongoings on in court, as well as the legal stuff around the arrest and whatnot could have been overwhelming, or I might have been tempted to skip as I have no understanding of it. But the authors have created such an easy piece of writing that I might as well be reading about how to make a cup of tea, it felt so natural. It’s so well written, so well told that you can follow it all like you’re in the room yourself. It is interesting but not overwhelming, informative but not technical, understandable but not patronising. These scenes are proof of excellent storytelling,

I like that there’s minimal characters. Sure, I’m a town there are many background characters such as Mike, Ava and Braden, but our focus is mainly on Asher, Olivia, Jordan and Lily. For me this is a four-person story. And they’re all concocted and explored in such depth and with such passion that you become part of this community.

Of course there are some sensitive subjects – domestic violence, physical abuse, injury, verbal abuse, illness, accused murder, relationships, divorce, sexual/gender identity – but they’re so sensitively done. Having now been in any of these situations before, luckily, I can’t say for certain they wouldn’t be overwhelming or hard to read, only you can make that decision for yourself, but I feel there was an appropriate balance.

It is heartbreaking in so many ways. To be able to express such levels of grief and sadness, both fictional and very real, is either down to impressive writing abilities or a personal experience, and it saddens me to think that any of this is from personal experience. But it’s so beautiful and gorgeous but in both happy and tortuous ways. That may seem like a contradiction. How can sadness be beautiful? I can’t answer that, not for everyone, but I think you’ll get what I mean if you read it.

There is an interesting use of timing. The chapters from Olivia’s point of view are always going forward in time after the ‘event’, whereas Lily’s are always set in the past but they go forward and backwards in the past. It shouldn’t work quite as well as it does, but it does. You don’t even really notice the chopping and changing, it flows so well.

It is a book you never want to end but at the same time, are desperate to find out what happens. You want to read it fast because it’s so engaging but you want to take your time so it’s not over too fast.

Whilst this book is predominately a piece of entertainment, something for you to lose yourself in, it is so much more than that. It’s one of the most important fiction books I think you could hope to read. It doesn’t ram the author’s opinions or beliefs down your throat or tell you how or what to think about certain social issues, it just states them for what they are, and it’s up to you how interpret them. You’re entertained and informed. You’ll be smiling, screaming, crying – it’s all there, and it’s so gorgeous. It’ll stay with you long after you’ve finished, long into your next read, and you just wish everyone could get the chance to read it.

I really couldn’t recommend this book higher, and once it comes out in physical form I will need to get my hands on a copy to add to my Jodi Picoult shelf.

All year, I’ve been noting down my favourite books of each month, and then at the end of the year I will pick my absolute favourite. I can tell you now, unless something else pops up that can match it, there will be no argument that this will get top spot come the end of the year.

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